Silver Gavel Awards for Media and The Arts

Silver Gavel Awards for Media and The Arts

American Bar Association
1996 Silver Gavel Award Winners

 Tort Reform
Publisher: The Dallas Morning News
Dallas, Texas
Writer: Charles Camp

Through a series of more than 30 articles, legal affairs writer Charles Camp comprehensively covered the effects of the 1995 "tort reform" initiative on Texas and Texans. This initiative resulted in the Texas Legislature passing eight new laws, constituting a sweeping overhaul of the rules governing damage lawsuits in the state. The series comprehensively detailed the reform effort, the reasons behind it, how the system might change, and how this might affect ordinary Texans filing lawsuits. After passage of the new laws, Camp provided readers with an assessment of future battles in the tort reform "war" and how Texas's civil litigation code compared to those in other states.

Supreme Court Coverage
Publisher: Knight-Ridder, Inc.
Washington, DC
Writer: Aaron Epstein

A seven-part series by national legal correspondent Aaron Epstein combining compelling stories of real people and communities behind the cases with incisive analyses designed to explain to the American public what our nation's highest court--the U.S. Supreme Court--is doing, why and how. Included are stories on recent Court cases emerging from Vernonia, Oregon (student drug testing); Colorado Springs, Colorado (gay/civil rights); and Southern California (habitat protection for endangered species), as well as a profile of Justice Clarence Thomas.

Judging Judges
Publisher: The State
Columbia, South Carolina
Reporters: Lisa Greene and Cindi Ross Scope

An in-depth series of nine articles on "judging the judges," describing how judges are selected in South Carolina, one of only two states in the country in which state legislators elect judges. Reporters Lisa Greene and Cindi Ross Scope documented how, with little regard for merit, the current system is designed to reward state lawmakers' political allies--often fellow legislators. "Judging the judges" prompted a public outcry and resulted in significant steps towards reform of the system by the governor and other state lawmakers.

A Year in the Life of the Supreme Court
Publisher: Duke University Press
Durham, North Carolina
Editor: Rodney Smolla
Contributors: Paul Barrett, Richard Carelli, Marcia Coyle, Lyle Denniston, Aaron Epstein, Kay Kindred, Tony Mauro, David Savage, and Stephen Wermeil

Nine of the nation's leading Supreme Court reporters joined together to offer an inside view of a recent "year in the life" of one of the most influential, if not always well understood, institutions in contemporary America. The cases covered treat some of the great social and legal issues of our day: abortion, separation of church and state, freedom of speech, the right of privacy, crime, violence, police misconduct, race and sex discrimination, and the death penalty. Most important, however, the cases are disputes involving real people with actual stories. The contributors to this volume, edited by constitutional scholar Rodney Smolla, bring these stories to life, using them as a backdrop for the larger issues of law and social policy that constitute the Court's business, and as an opportunity to examine the personalities and jurisprudence of each of the Justices.

Abandoned in the Wasteland: Children, Television, and the First Amendment
Publisher: Hill and Wang
New York, New York
Coauthors: Newton Minow and Craig LaMay

An eloquent and impassioned examination of television programming, First Amendment rights of free speech and the public interest, and the effect of television on children. Abandoned in the Wasteland was written by Newton Minow, a professor of communications law and former chairman of both the FCC and PBS, and Craig LaMay, a communications scholar and journalist. As FCC Chairman in 1961, Minow criticized television broadcasting, in a now-famous phrase, as a "vast wasteland." Today, he and coauthor LaMay argue that television programming should be regulated to serve children and, in so doing, the public interest. They challenge the public to demand better programming for children and offer specific proposals for how this could be accomplished.

A Civil Action
Publisher: Random House
New York, New York
Author: Jonathan Harr

The real story--turned into a riveting drama--of a nine-year-long complex liability lawsuit brought by eight Woburn, Massachusetts families against two multibillion dollar corporations, Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace. The plaintiffs, whose children were stricken with leukemia, charged that this resulted from well water contaminated with toxic waste dumped by the two corporations. The plaintiff's lawyer and protagonist of the book, Jan Schlichtmann, eventually won $8 million for the injured families from a settlement with one of the companies, but wound up bankrupt. Each family received about half a million each, far less than what many experts believed the case was "worth." Journalist Jonathan Harr spent eight years tracking, researching and writing this gripping work of novelistic nonfiction.

Judge Hayden's Family Values
Publisher: The New York Times Magazine
New York, New York
Reporter: Jan Hoffman
Legal Editor: Doreen Weisenhaus

A month-long look inside the court--and mind--of a prototypical family court judge. This judge, Essex County (NJ) Superior Court Judge Katherine Sweeney Hayden, seems called upon to function simultaneously as "Judge, Shrink, Mother, God." As marriages fail, new family configurations require fresh solutions, and changes in technology and society challenge our values and beliefs, we are increasingly relying on family court judges to be the arbiters of our most personal decisions. Reporter Jan Hoffman's account sensitively humanizes family law and gives the reading public a real sense of the issues and dilemmas which family court judges face today.

Clarence Darrow Tonight!
Producer: Laurence Luckinbill with ArLuck Entertainment
Katonah, New York
Playwright: Laurence Luckinbill

A riveting and educational new one-man play of the life and courtroom battles of famed maverick defense attorney Clarence Darrow, based upon his autobiography and other writings. Performed, written and produced by noted actor/writer Laurence Luckinbill, Clarence Darrow Tonight! entertainingly presents a serious and timely portrayal of a still fascinating and controversial figure. Set in the 1930s, Darrow speaks on the subject, "What is Justice?," while reenacting dramatic episodes from his trial experiences during a fifty-year career. Ultimately, the play makes the case that Darrow has something important to say for America in the 1990s. Many of the issues he confronted--capital punishment, rehabilitation of criminals, race relations, freedom of speech, and the nature of justice itself--are still very much alive in American society today.

Legal EASE: Legal Ramifications of Alcohol Abuse
Producer: Louisiana Public Broadcasting
Baton Rouge, Louisiana Sr. Producer: Tika Laudun
Project Director: Ayan Rubin

A 15-minute program designed to educate teenagers about the legal and social ramifications of alcohol use and abuse. Basketball great and Louisiana State University alumnus Rudy Macklin hosts the program, introducing four young people whose lives were changed forever by alcoholism. Featuring real people and real-life incidents, the program is a powerful instructional tool to be used with teachers and other adults to stimulate discussion with young people and encourage them to think before they act. Along with a companion teacher's guide, the program has been widely distributed in Louisiana.

Loyalty on Trial
Coproducers: Video Dialog Inc.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina and University of North Carolina School of Law Foundation with the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television Producer: Steven Channing Dean, UNC
School of Law: Judith Wegner

Loyalty on Trial, a 27-minute dramatic reenactment of Bayard v. Singleton, tells the story of Elizabeth Bayard, a North Carolina woman fighting to reclaim her "Loyalist" family's confiscated property after the Revolutionary War. Other players in this story include two future U.S. Supreme Court Justices, three governors of North Carolina, and the founders of the University of North Carolina, the country's first public university. Sixteen years before the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling in Marbury v. Madison established a national principle of judicial review, Bayard, in 1787, was the first reported case in which an American court struck down a legislative act as unconstitutional. Loyalty on Trial selects a seminal moment in our judicial history to consider a fundamental question for a constitutional democracy: "Should the legislature, or the courts, be the final arbiters of the law?"

"House Counsel" Episode of Law & Order
Coproducers: Wolf Films in association with Universal Television
Universal City, California
Exec. Producer: Dick Wolf
Writers: Barry Schkolnick and Michael Chernuchin

Central to the American system of justice is the adversarial process: "Two independent counsel arguing points of fact and points of law before an impartial judge and jury." What happens when this process is undermined? "House Counsel," an hourlong episode of the NBC network drama Law and Order, explores the sometimes fine line between zealous advocacy and illegal conduct when a "mob lawyer" is charged with conspiracy to murder a juror who accepted a bribe from his underworld client. Along the way, the story, written by Michael Chernuchin and Barry Schkolnick, highlights the interplay of law, ethics and justice through examination of such issues as wiretapping, admissibility of evidence, plea bargaining, and attorney-client privilege.

You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow!
Coproducers: Robin Washington with New Hampshire Public Television
Boston, Massachusetts
Writer/Editor: Robin Washington

In 1947--one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Morgan v. Virginia that segregation on interstate travel was unconstitutional--16 courageous men, eight black and eight white, traveled the upper South together by bus on the nation's first "freedom ride" to challenge Jim Crow laws. You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow! documents this little-known early chapter in the modern civil rights movement, as five veterans of the original "Journey of Reconciliation" retrace their historic trip nearly half a century later. The 58-minute film tells its story through the recollections and present-day travels of the surviving 1947 freedom riders, interspersed with narrative providing legal and social context. It also features Irene Morgan, the plaintiff in the landmark 1946 case who, 11 years before Rosa Parks, spurred the challenge to legal discrimination in interstate travel.

No Silver Gavel Awards were presented in this category in 1996.
No Silver Gavel Awards were presented in this category in 1996.

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